Happy Volcano’s raucous comedy driving game You Suck At Parking has come a long way since we last saw it in the autumn of 2020. When Imogen (RPS in peace) last sucked at stopping her colourful cartoon car in its devilishly placed parking spots, she did so alone in an alpha demo for its single player campaign mode. Last week, however, James, Liam and myself went hands on with an exclusive build of its new 8-strong multiplayer mode, accompanied by five members of Happy Volcano’s development team to test it out – and let me tell you, if the battle modes of recent Mario Karts have left you feeling increasingly cold over the years, this is looking to be just the thing to grease those competitive wheels again.
If you’ve spent any time driving round a busy car park, this is probably a sensation that will feel familiar to you: roaming the lanes looking for that last, elusive parking spot, only to be faced with another car coming down the other way, their headlights somehow glaring at you to BACK OFF, PAL, this is my spot and I’m not giving it up for no one.
You Suck At Parking captures a similar vibe, only you’re both dodging land mines at high speed in order to reach said space, or hand-braking round corners to avoid deadly magnets twirling around in circles. Sometimes the parking spots are located across impossible gaps, necessitating the use of a ramp, a high-powered wind-machine, a warp gate and a launch pad to get to them. Other times, you’re careering through deadly mincing machines that slam shut and gobble up cars for breakfast. On ice. With bomb drones following your every move. It’s extreme car parking, is what it is, but with just the right amount of chaotic silliness to make each three-minute course a devious and adrenaline-fuelled treat – the kind of one-upmanship Mario Kart’s battle modes used to instil in me back in 1997 (Bowser and Block Fort 4 life!), but which subsequent Karts have often sadly failed to provide in the years since.
The basics of You Suck At Parking’s multiplayer mode are pretty much the same as what you’ll find in the campaign. As in that single-player mode, your main goal here isn’t about racing toward any kind of finishing line. Instead, you’re hunting down its titular parking spots, although reaching them and stopping inside the designated white lines is easier said than done. Indeed, stopping anywhere outside those lines will see you whisked back to the starting line, because stopping = parking in this madcap universe of comedy punching gloves and searingly hot central reservations, and the only way to not get called out by the game’s title is to make sure you keep your engine going and braking as little as possible until you reach one of its big white P spots.
In the random assortment of levels we played last week, we were tasked with parking in seven, eight or nine of the rectangular little blighters in each level. Once you successfully park in one, your spot will be marked in pink and you’ll be instantly warped back at the start to try and nab another one. The fastest to park in all of them (or as many as you can in three minutes) will be crowned the winner. It’s not just a one and done affair, though. Each round is comprised of four tracks, and you’ll be ranked based on time and the number of spots you parked in successfully.
You don’t have to park in a space with any degree of precision, I might add. As long as some part of your car is on or inside the white lines, then job done – an admission that probably means you can suck at parking in a conventional sense, but in a way that still elicits joyful yelps of “YES!” when you manage to pull it off in-game. It helps, of course, that the cars themselves handle beautifully, too, evoking that kind of Micro Machines-esque playfulness while still feeling responsive under the thumbs. I should also note that while we only played with cars in our multiplayer session, there will also be vans, lorries and steamrollers to unlock in the final game.
The main thing working in You Suck At Parking’s favour, though, is that it’s one of those multiplayer games where there’s enough going on to feel competitive and up against it, but still quiet(ish) enough to still focus on doing your own thing. It’s always manic at the start, for example, where everyone zooms out of the gate at once, but as various drivers peel off in search of other parking spots, invariably crashing and respawning at vastly different rates, the tempo of any given track gradually settles down into its own kind of individual rhythm. That’s a big thumbs up for someone like me who tends to get instantly obliterated in a lot of other online multiplayer games these days – yer fast-paced shooters and the like – as here I feel like I still have a fighting chance to try and complete each round’s objective, regardless of where I am on the leaderboard. I’m still allowed to have fun, in other words, rather than being forced to sit on the sidelines through my own sheer incompetence and having to watch other, better players finish whatever they’re doing.
So, if you, too, have been feeling let down by recent Mario Kart multiplayer offerings, or find the realism of other racing games just doesn’t meet your personal quota of flamingos, magnets or swinging croquet hammers threatening to knock you clean off the map, then You Suck At Parking is well worth pulling into for a spell when it launches in full later this year.
And if that’s too far away for you, then I have good news. Soon, you, dear reader, will also be able to sample You Suck At Parking’s multiplayer mode for yourself, as there’s another public playtest coming up in the next couple of weeks that will focus specifically on showcasing some of these brilliant multiplayer courses I’ve just talked about. Happy Volcano are still nailing down an exact date for the playtest at time of writing, but you can keep an eye on Steam or Discord for all the latest info.